Psychoanalysis and the Making of Mothers into Wives
In previous chapters I discussed several senses in which one could interpret Freud's work, which generally focused on fathers, as "true," and showed that this same truth could be found in the data of academic psychology. In this chapter, I move to a discussion of the sense in which psychoanalysis as applied to gender development has obscured truth. Feminists have criticized psychoanalytic theory on many counts, but I believe the core problem with the psychoanalytic theory of gender development is its implicit definition of masculinity as being sexually attracted to females and acting as "subject" in heterosexual relationships, and its implicit definition of femininity as being sexually attracted to males and being an object in heterosexual relationships. These definitions equate what we now call gender with heterosexuality and dominance in heterosexual relationships if one is "masculine" and with submission in heterosexual relationships if one is "feminine." In short, psychoanalysis defines gender in terms of sexuality, and a male-defined sexuality at that.
Failure to be critical of the connections made within psychoanalysis between sexuality and gender led both Juliet Mitchell and Gayle Rubin (who have since changed their positions) to the discouraging conclusion that we must end gender differentiation in order to end male dominance and to "free" sexuality. In my view, what we now refer to as gender identity, the gut conviction of feeling female or male, would be difficult to eradicate in any culture. It
would be much more possible to disassociate culturally a basic sense of gendered self from issues of dominance and submission and sexual preference. This process of separation is well on its way outside psychoanalysis, but psychoanalysis itself and those who use its approach have not yet come to terms with it. I argue that the effect of the recent tendency to use the term gender instead of sex will be to emphasize that sexuality is not definitive of gender, certainly at least not in the minds of women. Gender and sexuality need to be analytically separated and each defined in terms that take female perspectives into account.
Freud's Conception of Gender Difference
Chodorow's main concern in The Reproduction of Mothering is to explain differences between men and women in relational capacities on the basis of women's mothering. She explicitly states that she is not primarily concerned with the differential evaluation of males and females or with gender identity or heterosexuality. In contrast, Juliet Mitchell and Gayle Rubin have been concerned with precisely these phenomena. But, as I said, both Mitchell's and Rubin's analyses run into problems because they do not sufficiently question the way in which psychoanalytic thinkers merge questions of sexuality with questions of gender.
As both Mitchell and Rubin make clear, Freud, to his great credit, does not take masculinity in males and femininity in females for granted as being given at birth. Although there may be disagreement about how large a weight Freud gives to biological factors (Mitchell and Rubin probably underestimate Freud's biologism), there can be no doubt that becoming "masculine" for males and becoming "feminine" for females is something that is at least in part "accomplished" rather than given. Freud sees each "sex" as possessing elements of both masculinity and femininity and refers to this as bisexuality. These elements are both physiological and psychological in nature. For Freud, the psychic manifestations of bisexuality include a wide range of behaviors from overt homosexuality to cross-gender nonerotic behavior. He makes it quite clear that "normal" individuals are never totally masculine or feminine in their behavior.
The problem with Freud arises not with regard to any insen-
sitivity on his part to the bisexual nature of both males and females. There is a problem, however, with the strong linkage he makes between sexual orientation and gender. In his scheme a female can deviate from femininity by being active or by choosing a female love object, and a male can deviate from masculinity by being passive or by choosing a male object. But what one cannot do within the scheme is deny the centrality of heterosexuality and dominance to masculinity and heterosexuality and passivity to femininity.
Many of Freud's other propositions depend on and perhaps derive from this basic assumption. In the first place, he concludes that a girls femininity is less secure than a boy's masculinity because her first love relationship is with a female, thus "homosexual." The little boy, by contrast, has a head start on masculinity because of his early relationship with his mother, which, as Robert Stoller noted, Freud never doubted was "fundamentally heterosexual" (pp. 356–57). Even though Freud did make a few statements concerning the possibilities of an affectionate identification with the parent of the same gender, he generally thought of same-sex relationships as threatening gender identity and heterosexual relationships affirming it. For example, in discussing the case of little Hans, Freud observes that the child's father was often the one who helped him urinate ("widdle") and in the process of helping him take out his "widdler," Hans was given "an opportunity for the fixation of homosexual inclinations upon him."
Although Freud saw both males and females as being bisexual, the basic sexual orientation of both genders in his view was predominantly masculine defined as a phallic (by definition active) orientation toward the mother. Thus Freud argued that a female first loved her mother as a little man. Her orientation to her mother was active and clitoral. To become "feminine" she must transform this orientation to being passive and vaginal. This tying of male to active and female to passive can also be seen in his idea that each gender experiences a positive and negative Oedipus complex. In the negative Oedipus complex, the boy loves his father passively; in the positive Oedipus complex, he loves his mother actively. The girl's negative Oedipus complex involves loving the mother actively, "like a little man," and in the positive Oedipus complex, she loves the father passively, "like a woman."
Although being actively mothered and perhaps seeing siblings
being mothered is a first social experience of children of both genders, Freud maintains that mothering is not a primary wish in females, much less in males. As late as 1933, he explicitly states that the doll play of a young girl is "not in fact an expression of her femininity." He explains this by saying it could not be feminine because "it served as an identification with her mother with the intention of substituting activity for passivity." Here Freud makes it clear that in his view femininity does not relate to motherhood, because motherhood is active, nor is femininity acquired by identifying with the mother. Femininity is acquired only when the doll becomes "a baby from the girl's father, and thereafter the aim of the most powerful feminine wish" (p. 87). This wish is to have a penis from the father.
In Freud's terms what is important in the child's mind is not the baby but who gave the mother the baby. Freud admits that in general it is hard to imagine the nature of the girl's active phallic wishes toward the mother, that is, "whether the child attaches a sexual aim to the idea, and what that aim is," but when a sibling is born, he tells us, "The little girl wants to believe that she has given her mother the new baby, just as the boy wants to, and her reaction to this event and her behavior to the baby is exactly the same as his." Here Freud emphasizes the baby as a gift from a man but ignores the wishes often expressed by both males and females to be the mother, to own a baby.
In Freud's work there is no independent status for mothering; it is merely a roundabout way of getting a penis, which he claims is what women really want. The ultimate and true feminine wish is to have a male child, and this child becomes a substitute for the coveted penis. Motherhood is subsumed under penis envy and women are defined as failed men, with motherhood being their consolation prize. Thus Freud's theory provides a magnificently overdeveloped rationale in support of defining women primarily as wives, secondarily as mothers. For Freud getting a child from a man is the "feminine" wish, but getting a child, period, is not. The latter might imply more female independence and activity than Freud could countenance.
Yet Freud was more aware than most of the inadequacy of the terms active and passive to characterize masculinity and femininity, and he understood that on one level motherhood is a very ac-
tive enterprise. He tries to solve the problem in part by suggesting that "one might consider characterizing femininity psychologically as giving preference to passive aims," explaining that "this is not, of course, the same thing as passivity: to achieve a passive aim may call for a large amount of activity." Even so, the idea of passive aim gets us right back to the fit between Freud's scheme and the passive aim of being a wife, a state a woman might indeed actively pursue, since it has been "the only game in town."
Freud claims that "activity" versus "passivity" is relevant to masculinity and femininity when one thinks of the active sperm joining the passive egg and of the active male and passive female in intercourse. His discussion here provides us with a good example of how what appears to be a biological "fact" is stated and distorted in terms of essentially social meanings. Freud says, "The male sex-cell is actively mobile and searches out the female one, and the latter, the ovum, is immobile, and waits passively. This behavior of the elementary sexual organisms is indeed a model for the conduct of sexual individuals during intercourse. The male pursues the female for the purpose of sexual union, seizes hold of her and penetrates into her" (p. 117 fn.). Although the sperm does move toward the egg, dead sperm and inert particles of India ink reach the egg at about the same speed as live sperm, suggesting that the active-passive conceptualization is socially imposed even here. Certainly too Freud's conceptualization of the act of intercourse is patently social. Thus in his hands "femininity" is rendered passive.
Roy Schafer maintains that Freud gives a prominent place to genital heterosexuality because it fits in with the general evolutionary emphasis on the propagation of the species. But why did he not emphasize instead the survival of the progeny and note that among humans, survival depends heavily on postnatal care. It appears to be a peculiarly masculine bias to assume that sexual intercourse is the major event related to the evolution of the human species. For women, motherhood may be the major event related to the next generation, and men can relate to this only indirectly.
Freud's Gynecentric Opposition
Freud's emphasis on the Oedipal period and de-emphasis on women's mothering has been challenged from the very beginning even
from within the psychoanalytic movement itself. Karen Horney argued long ago that Freud's view of women as defective males was patent male bias, and as Nancy Chodorow notes, of all the explanations of penis envy that have ever been put forth, only Freud's is inconceivable. Freud claimed that the instant a girl sees a boy's penis she knows she has been shortchanged. Freud does not even seek an explanation for penis envy because for him the explanation was obvious: any girl in her right mind would want one.
The reason that Mitchell in contrast to so many feminists accepts Freud's attribution of primary penis envy to girls has to do with her Lacanian-influenced view of Freud as a purveyor of cultural symbolism. She would say that the human psyche is phallocentric and is recreated in each generation, in "masculine civilization." As she puts it, "there is nothing neither true nor false but thinking makes it so, and if patriarchal thought is dominant then femininity will reflect that system: 'nature' is not exempt from its representation in mental life." Mitchell contrasts her symbolic approach to the biologism of Horney, Klein, Jones, and others who argued against Freud and the primacy of penis envy (pp. 125–31).
I am not concerned with countering either Mitchell's totally symbolic approach or the biologism of those she criticizes. Neither will I focus on the long-standing battle over penis envy, which now seems well on the way to being won by those who deny its primacy in the development of "femininity." I am concerned instead with the more serious problem that pervades both sides of the phallocentric-gynecentric debate within psychoanalysis. Neither Freud, who epitomizes the phallocentric emphasis, nor the gynecentric theorists who challenge this emphasis have a conception of preoedipal gender that is not closely tied to heterosexuality. Even those psychoanalytic thinkers who have stressed womb and breast envy in boys and who see penis envy in girls as a secondary development maintain in one way or another the connections between femininity, heterosexuality, and passivity. Karen Horney, for example, who was one of the first to argue against Freud's ideas concerning females' initial penis envy, did so only to conclude that penis envy was a secondary development in females, which acted as a defense against girls' innate heterosexual desires for the father! Even though Freud's phallocentric conclusions were related to his merger of male dominance, heterosexuality, and masculinity,
those gynecentric theorists who stress women's mothering do not question the assumption that the basic elements of gender are heterosexuality and dominance-passivity. Fully as much as Freud, the gynecentric opposition sees passivity and heterosexuality as being the "normal" developmental result for females even though they posit differing starting points than did Freud and his followers.
Karen Horney, Ernest Jones, Melanie Klein, and more recently Janine Chassequet-Smirgel and Bela Grunberger all explain the girl's turn to the father as being related to an innate heterosexual desire. They claim the girl does not want a penis because she feels shortchanged without one, but rather she wants a man because she is heterosexual. These authors do not see heterosexuality as being created in culture or interaction but as being given in nature. In a way this draws the connections between sexuality and gender even closer by treating them as purely biological. Freud, at least as Juliet Mitchell interprets him, can be seen as assuming women have to learn heterosexuality-femininity and at some cost to themselves at that. These gynecentric analysts, however, break the linkage Freud makes between reproduction and sexuality by treating sexuality, albeit heterosexuality, as intrinsically gratifying to women and not as a means to procreation, which Freud always interpreted it to be. Freud always assumed women wanted "sex" in order to have a baby, which was a penis substitute.
Freud increasingly came to understand that there were other relationships besides the Oedipus complex that established gender difference and lay behind the Oedipus complex. For example, in a paper written in 1921 entitled "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego," he says: "A little boy will exhibit a special interest in his father; he would like to grow like him and be like him, and take his place everywhere. We may say simply that he takes his father as his ideal . . . . It fits very well with the Oedipus complex, for which it helps to prepare the way." Here he suggests that he does have a conception of gender identity that rests on a simple identification with the father as a mentor and ideal. Finally, in the later years of his life Freud began to make statements about the importance of the preoedipal mother attachment in girls and commented to the effect that there were depths to mental life that psychoanalysis had not explored. He compares the early preoedipal period in girls to the discovery in anthropology of the Minoan-
Mycenaean civilization that preceded the civilization of Greece. But even in recognizing the importance of this period, he does not relate it to female gender identification. For him girls are "masculine" until they become feminized by the father.
Even though Chodorow is aware of these connections within psychoanalytic theory, she does not directly challenge them. As we saw earlier, she explicitly states that she assumes the heterosexuality of the mother. Rather, her contribution is to describe the relational context (the girl's experience of self in relationship, the boy's less relational self) in which "heterosexuality and these identifications get constituted" (p. 113). She does discuss how heterosexuality differs for men and women because of the primacy of the mother in the early lives of both genders. In so doing she makes a beginning toward decreasing the importance of heterosexuality to females as she discusses the daughter's emotional tie to her mother and her merely erotic tie to the father. She speaks of the daughter as being at least genitally heterosexual and implies that this erotic tie is not as deep as the female-to-female emotional tie. Chodorow's hedging suggests to me that she recognizes that if one gives up the tie that exists by definition between heterosexuality and gender, one comes dangerously close to giving up psychoanalytic accounts of gender development.
In sum, both phallocentric and gynecentic psychoanalytic conceptualizations conflate dominance and being sexually attracted to females with masculinity, and submissiveness and being sexually attracted to males with femininity. This has the effect of justifying inequality by making it appear that heterosexuality and deference to the male partner are central components of female gender identity. The alternatives open to women within this scheme appear to be to give up dominance and be feminine, to be asexual, which presumably makes one a neuter, or a nonperson, or to be homosexual, which of course Freud associated with being masculine. (This creates problems for those lesbians who attempt to use Freud, since many lesbians do not see themselves as masculine.) Gayle Rubin suggests that if fathers also mothered, primary object choice might be bisexual. The bisexual solution does not challenge the fundamental categories, however; it merely makes an amalgam of them. Thus "bisexual" would be a mixture of masculine and feminine, which in terms of psychoanalytic assumptions would mean
heterosexual and homosexual, dominant and submissive. Just as with the "androgyny" scales, putting two wrongs together does not make a right. Mitchell and Rubin, in accepting Freud uncritically as describing the way things are in the human psyche, can find no way out. For them the only way out would be to somehow do away with gender, which they assume must be defined in terms of sexuality. As noted earlier, both have now repudiated this formulation.
In her more recent work, Mitchell takes a very different tack and argues that by no means do we give up gender, since "human subjectivity cannot ultimately exist outside a division between the sexes—one cannot be no sex." But she then goes on to claim that the castration complex organizes what that difference is. This difference, she says, is not the presence of the penis in males and its absence in females and thus the difference between symbolic power and its absence, but is rather a problem in not being whole for both males and females. Thus she says, "The castration complex is not about women, nor men, but a danger, a horror to both—a gap that has to be filled in differently by each. In the fictional ideal type this will be [filled in] for the boy by the illusion that a future regaining of phallic potency will replace his totality; for the girl this will be achieved by something psychically the same: a baby. Phallic potency and maternity—for men and women—come to stand for wholeness." Here Mitchell appears to have forgotten all about male dominance in the sense of the normativeness of "masculinity." In her earlier reading of Freud she gave full play to his view that it was harder for women to become feminine than it was for men to become masculine because femininity meant accepting phallocentric culture. At the very end of her article she begins to speculate that femininity is not the same as motherhood, because mothers are symbolically about plenitude, fullness, completeness. This may or may not lead her in the direction I have been taking.
Writing in the 1970s, Gayle Rubin declared that to end inequality, gender differentiation and the Oedipus complex must be destroyed. This followed from the assumption that gender was created in the oedipal period. In 1984 she argues we must distinguish between gender and erotic desire and points out that the "semantic merging [of sex and gender] reflects a cultural assumption that sexuality is reducible to sexual intercourse and that it is a function of the relations between women and men." Her "solution" now is
that we need to develop a theory of sexuality less tied to gender. I shall return to this later.
To some extent the French feminists, too, who are attempting to redefine femininity while remaining within the Freud-Lacan tradition have been caught up in a problem that psychoanalytic accounts of gender development have created. In my view these efforts fail to the extent that they fail to critique the conflation I have been discussing. At its best psychoanalysis can be seen as an attempt to describe the social construction of gender in the nuclear family, but at the same time it reinforces a construction that makes sex-object choice and the active-passive distinction the central problematic.
In sum, then, the psychoanalytic conceptualization of masculinity and femininity has conflated dominance and sexual attraction to females with masculinity, and submissiveness and sexual attraction to males with femininity. Then, in a manner somewhat analogous to the way in which androgyny scales were constructed, the assumption is made that biological males and females generally possess a mixture of both masculinity and femininity. Freud envisioned children as being bisexual and at other times both boys and girls as being masculine. In either case, the "normal" outcome was for masculinity to predominate in anatomical males (anatomy becomes destiny) and for femininity to predominate in anatomical females, although this was more difficult. Freud sees this transformation as occurring during the oedipal period with its final solidification taking place at adolescence, after a period of sexual latency.
While this conceptualization is "liberal" in the sense that femininity appears to be not at all a foregone conclusion but instead a defeat for women, the problem lies in the assumptions that Freud makes about the nature of masculinity and femininity in the first place. By tying heterosexuality to gender identity itself, Freud makes it impossible to see that what oppresses women is the way in which heterosexual relationships themselves are structured.
Today traditional psychoanalytic interpretations of gender have been challenged by research on adult transsexuals and on children whose gender identity is for some reason problematic. John Money
and Anke Ehrhardt have concluded on the basis of their work with children with ambiguous genitalia that gender identity, the gut level conviction that one is a male or female, is formed early, before eighteen months, and therefore probably prior to the oedipal period when Freud thought gender differentiation occurred. Money also explicitly states, contrary to Freud's implication, that "gender identity," the public expression of which is "gender role," does not rest on heterosexuality or male dominance.
The finding that gender identity is established before the oedipal phase implies that gender identity per se does not have to be eliminated to eliminate sexism. In order to "free" sexuality, one does not have to give up gender identity. In my view the important step is to see that each individual's basic sense of gendered self can be separable from heterosexuality as a way of life and from expectations of male dominance in heterosexual relationships.
In his 1974 article in which he first articulated his concept of "core gender identity," Robert Stoller appeared to point the way toward a reconceptualization within psychoanalysis of gender development. In this article (which I described in Chapter 4) he argues that the boys first interaction with the mother is not heterosexual but involves a merging with the mother's femininity, just as the girl merges with her femininity. Much hinges, of course, on what Stoller means by femininity, and he does not define it, but in 1974 he clearly seemed to be referring to a maternal impulse as opposed to a heterosexual impulse. Stoller argues that Freud misinterpreted the famous Schreber case (Schreber was a prominent judge) in calling Shreber's fantasies "homosexual," because these fantasies were actually about his body changing to female and procreating a new race. Schreber was thinking in terms of maternal creativity and power, and not of sexual relations. Thus Schreber wanted to be a mother, not to have a man. Stoller's discussion appears to offer a basis for defining core femininity as being maternal rather than heterosexual.
In a later article, however, it is clear that Stoller remains an unreconstructed Freudian who has merely added on the idea of "core gender identity." He defines "core gender identity" as one's sense of being male or female, and "gender identity" as "the algebraic sum of the mix of masculinity and femininity found in an individual." He says he has nothing to add to Freud concerning femininity
but wants to talk about primary femininity, which is established before penis envy and the Oedipus complex. Quite remarkably, at this point he says primary femininity will consist in whatever the parents, especially the mother, encourages. "If one wants the appearance of femininity in a baby, all one need do is encourage and encourage and encourage." It is clear in this article that he does not mean maternal orientation by primary femininity—apparently, he means a kind of seductiveness. In his example of a woman who had not gotten beyond primary femininity he describes a woman whose core "femininity" seems to consist in being "lovely," a mother's doll on display. He sees this woman as basically a case of hysteria because she was seductive toward him in therapy and implies that this is her primary femininity produced by her mother! Here, clearly, Stoller's primary femininity is of no help to feminists (in spite of his saying primary femininity can consist of anything) and reproduces (at an even earlier level) the idea that femininity relates to being sexy with men. As far as I can see, male and female children are absolutely dedicated to smiling at and being charming (sexy?) to anyone of any gender who smiles back. In their interactions, all parents and all children are engaged in "seduction" in its broadest sense.
John Munder Ross, who is not a psychoanalyst but who works within the psychoanalytic tradition, is beginning to move toward a different conception of early childhood desires—a conception that gives what he calls "generativity" a more important place in the self-conceptions of both males and females. He assumes children of both genders first take on a maternal identification, but he says a boy's wishes to have a baby are soon interrupted by his "developing perception of sexual differences." He argues that the boy needs an awareness of the man's part in reproduction through his sexual relationship to a woman but also an appreciation of a man being able to take an active care-taking role. Thus the boy could imagine himself as a creative nurturant daddy who shares in both making and tending babies. Ross also suggests that the role of the father is to be not the fearsome father that Freud depicts in Totem and Taboo but the mothering father who can conteract that fearsome image.
This paternal identity is very different from the paternal identity Freud outlines and is more like the relational identity Chodorow outlines for women. Thus at least among the less classical theorists
there does seem to be a movement toward recognizing gender differentiation occurring at an initial earlier stage of development, prior to the oedipal period. They suggest that this earliest identity is based on the development of a parenting motive as opposed to a heterosexual motive in both genders. Nancy Chodorow points out that in psychoanalytic theory "a girl identifies with her mother in their common feminine inferiority and in her heterosexual stance." It seems to me that if we take the view that neither girls nor boys know their mother is inferior (or heterosexual) in their earliest relationship to her, it is quite possible to imagine that at first a child does not identify with her inferiority but with her active caretaking. An observational study of young children's fantasy play found that both boys and girls depicted "the wife" as a helpless individual. Girls depicted "mothers," however, as nurturant and efficient, but boys perceived males to be leaders both as fathers and husbands.
It is likely that heterosexuality is so important to gender identity only in the male psyche. Whereas the preoedipal girl can identify with her mother directly in her maternal activities of nurturing children, the boy may tend to define himself more in terms of being husband to mother. Another way of putting this is that the girl seems first to attempt to enact a maternal identity, whereas the boy avoids this by enacting a heterosexual identity. I believe these reorientations are very much on the right track, but they do not represent mainstream psychoanalytic opinion.
I have suggested at various points that women's basic sense of gender is likely to be related to a sense of mothering or relational capacities. This view is clearly implied in Chodorow's work. Dora Ullian comes to the same conclusion from what she calls a "constructivist" perspective. She thinks that the main organizing factor by which girls construct a sense of gender identity may well be the association of femaleness with having babies. In support of this view, she cites Bernstein and Cowan's study of children's concepts of the origin of babies, which indicates that girls believe that they already have some form of baby inside them regardless of the accuracy or inaccuracy of their ideas about birth and conception (p. 249). She reviews other evidence relating to the young girl's identification with nurturance, including the study that showed the persistence of girl's doll play even when the "doll corner" was removed
and Eleanor Maccoby's conclusion that girls and women are more responsive to infants than men and boys are and are more nurturant toward younger children who still need help and care (p. 244). Ullian concludes that "a feature of identity as salient as the capacity to bear children may represent a stable organizer of the child's identity and a significant determinant of her behavior. The preoccupation of girls with babies, dolls, various household items, friendships, and feelings bears testimony to the invariability of this female pattern" (p. 250).
One may ask how all this squares with the evidence that many, perhaps a majority of, girls declare that they were tomboys when they were growing up, which often meant having nothing to do with dolls. Since this tomboyishness usually occurs after early childhood, it could develop on top of an identification with mothering at least partially as a response to the girl's growing awareness that the world thinks "boys are better." On another level tomboyishness may mean that American girls, happily, do not see active engagement of the world as a gender-differentiated trait.
Ullian points out that her account differs from Chodorow's in that she does not posit a lack of differentiation between young girls and their mothers but instead "links female 'connectedness' to the young girls tendency to view herself as the mother of a real or imagined child." The two positions are compatible. Chodorow is concerned with the nature of the relationship between mother and daughter and emphasizes the mother's identification with the daughter; Ullian focuses on the female child's perception that she is "connected, either metaphorically or physically" to another. Chodorow stresses the socioemotional (and unconscious) aspects primarily; Ullian, the cognitive aspects. In either case they tie female gender identity to mothering, although Chodorow is not specifically concerned with gender "identity" in the way Ullian is.
It is also important to understand that both Chodorow and Ullian would disagree with Freud and with Lawrence Kohlberg's version of Freud that the girl's sense of self develops as a result of an attempt to compensate for a lack of perceived male power. From any number of standpoints, and most basically from the structural fact that women mother, girls are likely to have a primary, noncompensatory gender identity that is tied in with responsible caretaking. Just what concrete shape this takes in the child's mind is
another question, as is the salience of gender to a child, especially the female child. The primacy of girls' identification with mothering would fit with females having a more stable gender identity than males, even in the face of culturally based "male superiority." This view is, of course, contrary to Freud, who thought boys had the more clear-cut gender identity.
The idea that girls see themselves first as female because of associating femaleness and mothering may be more plausible to the adult mind than to the child's mind, however. While female is connected to mothering and is "true" at some level, it is difficult to state this truth in such a way as to avoid the "adultomorphizing" of gender, that is, attributing to children adult ways of categorizing the world. We obviously do not know what preverbal infants think, and even when they can talk, we cannot know what they "know" at some level they cannot articulate. I am sometimes persuaded by arguments of nonpsychoanalytic thinkers that gender is something that is sustained in interaction and is, in a sense, created and recreated in daily life. Transsexuals challenge this view, however, in that they are aware of playing an "as if" game. They feel that they "really" are a female, and the interactions they participate in "as a male" do not "feel right." This suggests that there are some very early impressions that are crucial. We do not know what they are, but on balance I suspect that mothering is important.
Ullian attributes girls' tendency to be less aggressive than boys to perceptions by girls that they are physically more delicate than boys, particularly the perception that adult men are hairy and have tough skin and deep voices and that women have smoother, softer skin and higher voices. Ullian explains why "girls are good" and "fear being bad" on the basis of their perception of themselves as not being tough but, rather, small, fragile, and easily hurt. In my view Ullian exaggerates female perceptions of "delicacy" vis-à-vis boys since both boys and girls may feel delicate and vulnerable compared to adults, especially adult males. The idea that adult women are delicate is culturally variable, certainly more variable than the greater aggressiveness of males. Although we are far from a complete understanding of women's lesser tendency to aggress, there is little reason to believe that feeling fragile will figure prominently in the explanation.
In an unpublished paper, Ullian reports on a study of the ways in
which females of different ages perceive themselves in relation to males. Six-to ten-year-old girls tended to see boys as "show-offs" who were "not very nice." They were people who thought they were wonderful for no good reason. As one six-year-old put it, "When boys do something like fishing, they want to catch something real big but then they don't come home with anything. But girls, they don't say they are going to do this or to do that. They see how it is going to be and if they catch something, they catch something" (p. 7).
Girls in the ten-to fourteen-year-old group were aware of a conflict between women's autonomy and conventional standards for marital relations. In other words, they were ambivalent about wives who were dominant, feeling that it was both OK—"she has just as much right as the man"—but also not so OK—"it is very weird that she had a better job than he does. I guess they would probably get into a couple of arguments" (quote from a twelve-year-old; p. 11).
In contrast, middle-class high school and college women resolved the conflict in favor of the male. In spite of being opposed to male dominance in principle, these late adolescents personally wanted their particular male to be more successful and dominant than they and expressed emotional discomfort at the prospect of being superior to their mate. They often coupled this with the idea that women were emotionally stronger than men and did not need the ego enhancement that males did. One girl suggested that the reason for wanting the male to be superior was in order not to have to feel like a mother toward him. Both these rationales are based on a recognition of the superiority of women as mothers. The first reaction suggests a belief in women's ability to empower others and women's superior emotional strength, and the second reaction recognizes that a mother-son relationship would reverse the power situation. But surely the alternative to being the superior mother does not have to be that of inferior wife. Equality needs to rest on being lovers and friends.
Ullian comments that even the most highly educated and economically privileged women who were interviewed, women who aspired to demanding professional careers, nevertheless wanted a man they could "look up to." Thus the idea was that the successful marital relationship required male dominance. These findings suggest that male dominance is located in our notions of the good mar-
riage, but it is not the primary basis of women's gender identity. This psychic position is not arrived at by women till adolescence. It is a position that is intimately connected with the ideology of the nuclear family, the structure of the economic world, and the linkages between the nuclear family and that world. Simply put, even as the male provider role declines, a woman's life chances still depend on the man she marries far more than a man's life chances depend on the woman he marries—a powerful reason for a woman to look for a superior man. It was Freud's questionable contribution to help define this as an ultimate psychic reality, to define deference to the male as what "femininity" is. This is not what women are but rather reflects expectations for women as wives. The effect of emphasizing the heterosexual couple in this society to the exclusion of others has been to emphasize the very relationship in which men are defined as superior.
Separating Gender from Sex
Freud defines gender in terms of sexuality, and sexuality in terms of a phallic or male model. This process involves two confusions: defining gender in terms of sexuality and defining sexuality from a male perspective. I discuss each issue in turn. In doing so I depart from Freud and psychoanalytic theory and turn to language usage and to changes that have occurred in that usage. These changes reflect changes in our thinking about sex and gender.
Throughout this book I have used the term gender where ten years ago I would have used the term sex. Indeed, here I use gender where many people would still use the word sex. There is a lack of agreement both among feminists and among the general public concerning the usage of these terms. Clearly, however, the word sex has been overloaded with disparate meanings and other terms are needed. The merging of what we now call gender with sex and male-oriented definitions of sexuality is endemic in the language and in Western (masculine) thinking. I use the term gender largely to make a distinction between gender and the narrowly sexual.
One confusion relates to sex being used to refer to one's civil status as a female or male versus the use of sex to refer to genital erotic activity (sex in bed). Ambiguities such as the following
abound: Does "sexual emancipation" refer to what we usually mean by the "sexual revolution," which freed women for more sexual activity, or does "sexual emancipation" refer to progress toward equality between females and males? What is a television documentary entitled "A Matter of Sex" about? It is in fact about inequities in pay and promotion of female bank tellers, but one suspects that the title in 1982 was meant to mislead the audience into thinking it was about sexual activity. Then there are the tired old jokes familiar to academic feminists, "Hello, how are you, are you still interested in sex?" and "How's the sex business?" Heh. Heh. It was not too long ago that women were referred to as "the sex." So men "had sex" with "the sex." All these examples offer linguistic testament to the sexualization and heterosexualization of gender. Freud did not invent this, since these ideas are probably at least as old as patriarchy, but Freud related them to a privatized psychic reality, fundamental to the subjective sense of self.
Thirty years ago, gender was strictly a grammatical term. In 1955, however, John Money, "the sexologist," used the term gender role in a paper on hermaphroditism. Money needed a word that meant physical role in sexual intercourse, but sex role had come to mean a "nongenitoerotic [a nonsexual] social sex role," and it therefore could not be used for this purpose. To solve his problem, Money used the term gender role to replace sex role as the latter had come to be used, that is, to refer to a nongenitoerotic social sex role. In sum, Money replaced sex role with gender role in order to reinstate sex role to mean specific physical role in sexual intercourse. He defined gender role broadly as "all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman, respectively. It includes, but is not restricted to, sexuality in the sense of eroticism." Later on Evelyn Hooker began using the term gender identity, and Money took the position that gender role and gender identity were different sides of the same coin. Gender role was the public expression of the private conviction of having a male or female gender identity. According to Money in his recent reminiscence on the subject, it was Robert Stoller's book Sex and Gender published in 1968 that brought on the tendency (which Money considers unfortunate) to relegate sex to the biologists (body) and gender to the social scientists (mind).
For various reasons, the world was waiting for the term gender. Gender has been readily taken up not only in English but in translation, and has come to replace sex in certain contexts. Feminist sociologists first began participating in this shift by taking up the idea that the term sex should be used to refer to biological or anatomical sex and gender should be used when speaking of socially defined masculinity and femininity. That is, sex was to be used to refer to the relatively dichotomous distinction between female and male based on genital difference, and gender was to be used to refer to the psychological and cultural definitions of the dimensions masculine and feminine. Many psychologists tended to adopt this usage because it allowed them to speak of a woman's sex as being female and her gender as feminine, masculine, or androgynous. It fit in nicely with the thinking behind androgyny scales.
Others who argued that women are made in culture and not born in nature used the term gender to refer to the learned aspects of women's behavior and orientations. Those who stressed the importance of nurture over nature, of the social over the biological, often did so as a means of explaining women's alleged deficiencies. In my view these approaches often unwittingly played into the idea that women could gain equality if they could be "socialized" to be more like men. The underlying assumption behind this made "masculinity" the norm. I criticized this view in Chapter 2.
Suzanne Kessler and Wendy McKenna, who take what they call an ethnomethodological approach to gender, have criticized the tendency to make the distinction between sex and gender coterminus with a distinction between biological and social. They use gender, instead of sex as I do, even when referring to those aspects of being a woman or a man that are ordinarily viewed as biological. They do this in order to emphasize that there is an important element of social construction in all aspects of defining female versus male. I believe they are quite correct in this. The last thing we need is a revival of the nineteenth-century dichotomy between nature and nurture. Biology is involved, but it is always socially constructed.
More recently gender has come to be used in the context of separating it from sex, which in turn is coming to be called sexuality to distinguish it from sexual activity. Throughout this book I have made much of the distinction between gender and what I have
been calling the heterosexual aspects of gender differentiation. The use of the term gender makes it easier to talk about the degree to which psychoanalysis conflated gender with sexual orientation (another distinction) and dominance. I believe that Catharine MacKinnon is making a similar distinction when she says that gender is defined by sexuality. MacKinnon also rejects the distinction between gender and sex as indicating the social versus the biological or the learned versus the unlearned. In a footnote, she says she uses the terms relatively interchangeably because she is not really interested in the distinction the two terms are supposed to make. Although MacKinnon does not discuss the term gender specifically, she generally uses the term to mean civil status and then goes on to argue that women as people have been defined (by men) in terms of their "sexuality." What she means by this is that men have defined women as beings whose sexuality is the most important thing about them and that women's sexuality belongs to men who make rules about its accessibility. In this sense she says "sexuality is the linchpin of gender inequality." MacKinnon puts it this way: "Socially, femaleness means femininity, which means attractiveness to men, which means sexual attractiveness, which means sexual availability on male terms. . . . Sex as gender and sex as sexuality are thus defined in terms of each other, but it is sexuality that determines gender, not the other way around " (italics added; pp. 530–31). MacKinnon is emphasizing, in a somewhat different way than I have, the degree to which men have defined femininity as being a heterosexual object. I have shown how psychoanalysis does this too.
MacKinnon is saying that men make a definitional fusion between gender and sex and that this leads to sex discrimination. (It might be best to call this gender discrimination, but she cannot, because sex discrimination is in the legal language.) MacKinnon was helped toward her insight concerning sexuality defining gender by now being able to use the word gender to describe females as total people. The ultimate importance of using the word gender instead of sex in contexts where sex could imply sexuality can be to emphasize that sexuality as definitive of gender will no longer be tolerated. What MacKinnon does not make clear, however, is that the sexuality in terms of which women are defined is a maledefined sexuality; it is women's sexuality from a male point of view.
As noted earlier Gayle Rubin now explicitly repudiates her earlier implication that gender was defined by sexual orientation and power, saying that she "did not distinguish between lust and gender, treating both as modalities of the same underlying social process." In contrast to her perspective in "The Traffic in Women," she now argues that "it is essential to separate gender and sexuality analytically to more accurately reflect their separate social existence" (p. 307). Rubin's aim in making this distinction is quite different from MacKinnon's. MacKinnon objects to the extent to which women have been made into sex objects by men and campaigns against pornography and sexual harassment as forms of discrimination against women. Rubin, in contrast, has recently been concerned about the repression of sexuality, which she sees as being a separate issue from the oppression of women. She points out that lesbians who have joined ranks with heterosexual feminists and define themselves primarily as oppressed women need to remember that they are also oppressed as sexual deviants, along with gay males, prostitutes, transvestites, and fetishists. Rubin wants to make a beginning toward developing an autonomous theory and politics that is specific to sexuality. This theory and politics would be different from, but could inform, a theory and politics of gender, which has been the concern of feminists.
The personal political agendas of MacKinnon and Rubin are poles apart. MacKinnon wants to save women from predatory males and Rubin wants to save "sexuality" itself from public scrutiny and control. They represent another set of divergent currents within the feminist movement. Both of these thinkers, now, however, find it important to make an analytical distinction between gender and sexuality.
The potential conflict between pro-women politics and defense of sexual freedom politics is apparent in the responses of lesbians to the AIDS epidemic. While lesbians might well take the position that they are the least likely group to contract the disease sexually and to view AIDS as yet another threat to women caused by men, many lesbians quite clearly identify politically with gay males. Some lesbians take the position that the labeling and surveillance of gay men, which is part of some proposed health policies, threatens lesbians too. Many lesbians are in the forefront of supporting AIDS victims and attempting to formulate humane health policies
that protect sexual freedom. These two stances were discussed at a roundtable, "The Politics of AIDS and the Feminist Sex Debates," led by Beth Schneider at a session of the annual meetings of Sociologists for Women in Society in 1987. Although it was generally agreed that gay men would probably not rush to the defense of gay women if AIDS had begun among the latter, the immediacy of sexual oppression versus the historical continuity of male privilege seems to give the edge to concerns with the dangers of sexual as opposed to gender oppression among gay women.
John Money claims that the term gender has been "neutered" and that at the same time sex has become "criminalized." He means by this that feminists among others have taken "the sex" out of gender and have become antisex in a wave of Puritanism. He also means that his field of "sexology" has been taken over by the study of "victimology." (Here Money is making the same point that Gayle Rubin is making from a very different standpoint.) I do not believe that most feminists are becoming antisexual, although it is clear that feminists diverge on sexual issues. Those feminists who appear to be antisex are largely objecting to having female sexuality defined in terms of the type of male perspective that conceives of women as sexual objects to be preyed upon.
Sexuality—bodily desire, lust, eroticism—which may or may not be focused on the genitals, may or may not be connected to reproduction, and may or may not be heterosexual, is the subject of concern here.
The Sexual Revolution
In the nineteenth century, women, at least "nice" women, were defined as being asexual. It is quite possible that Victorian women themselves supported this definition as a way of limiting the number of children they had. There is some evidence that fertility was largely controlled in the nineteenth century by limiting the amount of intercourse within marriage. Although most women, including feminists, were against contraception, they wanted to limit childbearing. Wives may have used "disinterest" in sexual activity as a
mechanism to control their husband's "lust." This strategy could succeed in a context in which emotional intimacy between husbands and wives was coming more and more to be expected. That is, in a love relationship, a woman's "lack of desire" would likely be taken as a legitimate deterrent by her husband and intercourse would be less frequent. The aim of limiting the number of children was related to the emerging definition of children as valued personalities, not as workers. Thus, controlling the number of births fit in with the nineteenth century's sentimentalizing of motherhood. Whether mothers allowed themselves erotic pleasure from nursing and caring for their children is not known, but I am suggesting that being asexual vis-à-vis men may have had its advantages for women seeking to limit childbearing.
Freud, and the psychoanalytic movement he founded, served as an intellectual bridge to bring female sexuality out of Victorian repression to greater freedom of expression. At the same time, as we have seen, Freud's views also contributed to a view of women as "failed men" and made sexual orientation (heterosexual-homosexual) and mode (active-passive) the basis of definitions of gender difference. Now, after the sexual revolution of the 1960s, for which psychoanalysis of the 1920s set the stage, women are expected to be sexual too. This has been another step in the process of inclusion, in assimilating men and women to the same world. As we shall see, however, this newly legitimated sexuality for women has continued to be defined from a perspective that accords sexual agency to males.
In the early days of the most recent women's movement, feminists set about trying to increase their sexual gratification and express their own sexual needs by using the work of Kinsey and especially of Masters and Johnson regarding women's physiological sexual capacities. It was good to have "science" confirm that women are capable of multiple orgasms and can climax quickly and repeatedly given adequate stimulation. It was good to hear that orgasms do not originate in the vagina. Feminists used these data to point out the extent to which the physical aspects of traditional sexual intercourse have worked against women's gratification. More attention to the clitoris was called for. At the same time other feminists began to talk about foreplay as being "the play." Heterosexual and lesbian women alike agreed that the penis did not hold the same significance for women as it seemed to for men.
While Masters and Johnson's findings and their concept of "mutual pleasuring" are potentially liberating and democratic, more often than not they have been interpreted in ways that do not challenge male agency. Sexual activity that takes place between a male and female somehow still gets defined as his show. If a woman does take initiative, it is because he wanted her to; if she "responds" more powerfully than he, he feels powerful for "making it happen." Fellatio is more likely to be defined as "servicing" and cunnilingus looked upon as "controlling." A woman whose behavior cannot be squeezed into a male control paradigm is not considered healthily sexual at all, but instead "crazy," that is, "out of control." Thus females are expected by most males to be "responsive" and "responsible," else they cause alarm. Women usually take pity when men become anxious and help them out, by not posing a threat, by being "pleased."
It is convenient in preserving dominance for men to consider women as hyposexual—a little sexual but not as sexual as men. As noted earlier, male identity and self-esteem seem to rest more on being sexual than does female identity and self-esteem. Being potent and virile is tied in with male self-respect. In part because of this, male sexuality often has a driven quality about it that stems more from power anxiety than from lust. From this standpoint, as Ethel Person has pointed out, it might be appropriate for women to call men hypersexual.
The degree to which female sexuality continues to be defined from a perspective that accords sexual agency to males can be seen most clearly in language usage. There is no comparable word for male potency that can be applied to a female. Women are not seen as sexual agents, rather they are expected to "respond" to male agency. Male potency is complemented by female "receptivity." A good woman nowadays is "sexually responsive"; one never asks if a male is sexually responsive. If a woman does not respond, she is called "frigid," and women have put a great deal of energy into not being, or appearing not to be, unresponsive. There is no positive word for female sexual initiative and neither is there a positive word for "reluctance to respond" to male initiative. As Dale Spender points out, refusal to respond (as a way of expressing dissatisfaction with the
way things are) "has been underrated by the dominant group." From the standpoint of power, the Victorian wife at least had the power that disinterest or refusal could confer. This power is less available to women today.
Another way to resist the confines of male-controlled sexuality besides "nonresponsiveness" is to be "bad." There is evidence that prostitutes take some pleasure in the power that illicit trade in sex provides. There is a certain pleasure to be had in exercising control over the customer in a sexual encounter. It is true that the prostitute "serves" the customer and that she is ultimately very vulnerable not only to him but also to pimps and police, but on another level she is "being bad" and is temporarily running the show. She is in business, she has experience, the customer is in her hands, she can think of herself as manipulating him for her own profit. It is probably no accident that many prostitutes have been incest victims, who suffer early from male sexual control. One psychological meaning of prostitution for these women could be that it is a way of redressing the sexual power situation that they encountered in their childhoods.
There are other ways of being bad. In another context, I have already discussed lesbianism as protest. Being a lesbian can also be thought of as a way of being "bad." There is danger and excitement in the "badness" of being attracted to a person of the "wrong" gender. Finally, seducing a male is "bad." Seductiveness is a kind of female power that, like motherhood, is kept under male control.
Perhaps no issue has been more problematic for feminists, and for women in general for that matter, than the power of seduction. Let's face it, women can be very seductive to men and to women. They were known to be seductive in the Middle Ages; it was an accepted power. But women's seductiveness has been subjected to extensive patterning in this and every other society. It is expected to be directed toward men and is for the purpose of pleasing men. In this society we are told that women's seductiveness is flaunted, but this is not the exact truth. Women are in fact made to seem, or are thought to be or are told to be, seductive in contexts where they are rendered harmless. In being seductive they are at
the same time denied sexual agency. I believe that this is the meaning of being made into a sex object. (Being seductive is not the same as being a sex object. To be sex objectified is to be thought of not as a sexual agent but as a sexual object.)
Rape is a male sexual control mechanism par excellence, and the rapist tries to justify his actions by blaming them on the power of women's seductiveness. She made him do it, she wanted it, she asked for it! Things are turned around. If a woman wanted it, she would not have called it rape. Muriel Schulz has written about rape not being a word that brings up horror. It is, instead, a rather neutral word that is used in polite conversation and apparently does not make people uncomfortable. Yet rape means something very bad indeed to females. A name is needed that communicates the sense of powerlessness and being used that rape involves. This need to see rape as a violation of self may help explain why some feminists have wanted to call rape an act of violence rather than a sexual act.
Because of sexual violence and male dominance in general, feminists have been very wary of female seductiveness. It gets used against women, just as motherhood in a different way is used against women. Ultimately, both motherhood and seduction can be sources of power, and it is a measure of the power of the particular structuring of male dominance in this society that these have been seen as women's "problem." Marabel Morgan, the founder of the Total Woman Movement, recommends that women try the power of seduction but recommends it in the context of their total submission to their husbands. This is another reason for feminist distrust of seduction; it can be a sexual service—a way for the weak to get their way. Mutual seduction in a context of equality, however, can be empowering for both males and females. In this sense the sexual revolution opens up possibilities for real equality but much needs to be worked out. Women and men sharing sexual pleasure is an important and necessary step in the process of inclusion, but female sexual expression in itself does not bring on the millenium.
Gender and Sexuality
As Foucault has argued so convincingly, sexuality has been both repressed and brought into existence as an area appropriate to scien-
tific specification and scrutiny. Creating a discourse about sex is the exercise of power; defining and describing what is normative and what is deviant is itself a powerful means of control. "Normal" sexual behavior has been defined, and deviations from it have been endlessly proliferated and ranked. It occurs to me that women qua women are less likely than men to accord sexuality such overarching importance. This is not because women are hyposexual, but because women are less inclined to tie identity to sexuality. Also, the various distinctions and subdivisions to which sexuality has been subjected do not make good sense. Somehow the whole idea of categorizing sexual orientations flies in the face of a much more complex erotic reality. Freud himself was aware of these complexities, more so perhaps than some present day "sexologists."
In the process of categorizing sexual behavior, sexuality itself has come to be thought of as a relatively constant and highly salient attribute of the individual. The "nature of one's sexuality" has almost come to mean who one is. In other times and places there were proscribed acts but not proscribed people. And as a part of this same process, as we have seen, psychoanalysis defined masculinity and femininity in terms of "sex object choice" and sexual mode. Now more heterosexual women are questioning "heterosexuality," not in the sense of choosing homosexuality, but questioning the salience and the rigidity of the heterosexual-homosexual distinction.
Although there is considerable agreement that sex and sexuality have been very much in the province of male prerogative and definition, there is considerably less agreement among feminists about what general stance to take with respect to sexuality. It is one thing to say that definitions concerning sexuality have a male bias and that women have been denied sexual agency, but what do women want? Women have been very reluctant to talk about sex among themselves except within certain rather narrowly defined parameters. But now feminist questioning is becoming more wide-ranging and is beginning to extend to examining the significance of sexuality itself. Is it the secret door to power that men have preempted for themselves, or is it a weapon against women that men use? Some feminists suspect that sexuality may be the place to look for the keys to power and feel that its potentialities should be explored more fully by women. Other feminists see "sex" as at the heart of the way in which women have been victimized.
There is also the issue of how sexuality might fit in with a discussion of women's greater orientation to relationships. Certainly, many women feel that their erotic feelings differ from those of men, but in saying how, we place ourselves in the midst of the dangers that recognizing "difference" can lead us into. How much difference is there? What kind of difference is it? How does the relational-nonrelational difference between women and men affect the way one is sexual?
Difference and Sexuality
The old cliché that women are interested in love and men are interested in sex must be revised in the light of the post-sexual revolution era. Many women no longer expect to be "in love" to enjoy sex and many women have participated in one-night stands with great pleasure. It still seems true, however, that women prefer sex and understand sex in a relational context. Studies of college students continue to report that males find it easier than females to participate in sexual intercourse without an emotional commitment and that females want more psychological involvement. Lillian Rubin argues that among the married people she interviewed, emotional attachment calls up the sexual for women, whereas for men the sexual allows there to be attachment. She also maintains that women who seem to feel as men do about sex really do not, because even short-term encounters have some interpersonal meaning for them (pp. 113–14). The women she interviewed also spoke of half-consciously withholding orgasm with a man they did not trust, whereas many of the men she interviewed continued to have sexual trouble with women to whom they were emotionally close.
The most striking research confirmation to date that gender difference should not be confused with heterosexuality or dominance submission comes from Blumstein and Schwartz's large-scale study of married, cohabiting, gay, and lesbian couples. Examining these four couple types provides a unique opportunity to study the relationship between gender and sexuality. The authors report that their strongest overall finding is the continuity of male behavior, whether that of husbands, cohabitors, or gays, and the continuity of female behavior, whether that of wives, cohabitors, or lesbians. Blumstein and Schwartz found a need for dominance in men, but
they did not find a need for submission in women. What they found was a reluctance to dominate in women, which is not the same as passivity, acquiescence, or submission. Rather, it represents a different principle, which I have been calling relationality.
In the area of sexuality, Blumstein and Schwartz find that lesbians have sex far less frequently than any other type of couple, and they do not have a compensating rate outside the relationship (p. 195). These data could be interpreted as indicating the hyposexuality of females but they could also be interpreted as indicating that other forms of eroticism are more prized. Blumstein and Schwartz explain the finding in part by reminding us that "having sex" means genital sex. They report that the lesbians they interviewed are much more likely to consider foreplay as an end in itself. But such activities do not count as "having sex" as it is ordinarily defined. Another possible explanation for the low rates is that women want neither to dominate nor to be dominated. Thus, taking the initiative becomes problematic for lesbians. Neither wants to initiate sex.
Interestingly enough, Blumstein and Schwartz found that among heterosexual couples, intercourse, as opposed to other forms of genital contact, is more prized by women than by men. Even though intercourse is not as genitally stimulating for women as for men, it can be satisfying because of its intimacy and mutuality. Blumstein and Schwartz suggest that "intercourse requires the equal participation of both partners more than any other sexual act. Neither partner only 'gives' or only 'receives.' Hence women feel a shared intimacy during intercourse they may not feel during other sexual acts" (p. 227). Kissing is also popular with women. It is most frequent among lesbians and least frequent among gay males (p. 226). Again, kissing is a mutual activity and it is also personal in the sense of engaging the face.
Other evidence for women's relationality affecting their sexual life comes from the striking differences between lesbian relationships and gay male relationships. Public bath-houses, a common recreational site for gay males before the threat of AIDS, are not similarly attractive to lesbians, and sexual encounters in public rest-rooms are virtually unheard of among lesbians. Gay male bars are places to pick up "tricks" for men, but lesbian bars are places where lesbian women gather socially in couples and individually. What
Blumstein and Schwartz speak of as the "tricking mentality" among gay males is far less present among most lesbians. The word trick, derived from the world of prostitutes, means that the encounter is entirely sexual and highly impersonal. This is not to say there is no love between gay men, but love relationships can and often are separated from sex for sex's sake (pp. 295–98).
Blumstein and Schwartz's findings regarding gender differences in sexuality lend considerable support to the description of gender difference given by Donald Symons in The Evolution of Human Sexuality. Symons makes it quite clear that differences in male and female sexuality should not be construed as a matter of hyposexuality in women or hypersexuality in men. He is well aware of the studies showing that females as well as males are sexually aroused by depictions of explicitly sexual activity. His argument is, however, that female and male sexual responses are equally intense but occur for different reasons, with males' initial arousal being more impersonal than that of females, who put themselves into the situation rather than depicting males as objects. Symons notes that males' interest in pornography is clearly greater than females'; this does not necessarily mean more sexual interest but a kind of impersonal sexual interest that pornography can satisfy. He goes on to argue that "men and women differ far less in their potential physiological and psychological responses during sexual activities per se than they do in how they negotiate sexual activities and in the kinds of sexual relationships and interactions they are motivated to seek." I agree. I disagree with his sociobiological explanation, however, which seems simplistic. Blumstein and Schwartz note the compatibility of their findings to Symons's analysis but attribute them to "socialization", whatever this catchall term may mean, rather than to biology.
A note of caution is important here. One cannot assume that somehow lesbians represent "pure" femaleness and that male gays represent "pure" maleness, even if one says the "pure" femaleness and maleness result from "socialization" rather than biology. Lesbians and gay men may represent female and male behavior under conditions of stigma. For the female there is the stigma of the cultural definition of what a female is and the stigma of sexual "deviance." For the male there is the stigma of "deviance" but the freedom and power that being male makes possible. These facts
complicate the picture in ways that need to be more fully understood. For example, the reason lesbians may be less involved in genital sex could be related to not wanting to be like men, yet the stigma of the "bull dyke" says lesbians are like men. To the extent that lesbians are protesting male dominance, one might expect even more ambivalence about initiating than might be found among heterosexual women.
Finally, Blumstein and Schwartz report that having children in the home disturbs husbands far more than wives. In their interviews, husbands complained about the effect children had on their sex lives, whereas mothers accepted the disruptions caused by children more readily. In summary, they say, "Women do not feel less satisfied sexually when they have children. This makes them very different from their husbands and can introduce a serious marital issue." All of these findings and observations suggest that gender differences in relationality (women's more relational orientation) may cause males and females to differ in the meanings they confer on sexual activity and sexuality.
Eroticism is more of a female word than a male word because it implies diffuse bodily pleasure more than genitally focused bodily pleasure. It is hard to think of eroticism as being "driven," and it fits in well with mutuality and a more relational orientation. I take it as a good sign that the word erotic is being increasingly substituted for the word sexual. Perhaps its use is a way of bringing men more into the orbit of women. Men have tended to deny diffuse eroticism as they deny relationality in general and connect sex with aggression and degrading the object. In moving toward a society where heterosexual relations can be mutually pleasurable and empowering, it is all to the good to enlist the human capacity for eroticism as a counter to an exclusively genital focus.
Similarity and Sexuality
Findings of the sort reported by Blumstein and Schwartz showing gender difference must not be allowed to obscure the larger truth that men and women are very similar sexually. Masters and Johnson have showed that on a physiological level female and male sexual responses are very similar, and they have also showed no differences between homosexuals' and heterosexuals' physiological
responses. Genital pleasure is genital pleasure and orgasm is orgasm and both women and men can feel empowered by it. One might conclude from Blumstein and Schwartz that genital stimulation is what men want and generalized body eroticism is what women want. This is precisely the conclusion that feminists who want to explore sexuality more thoroughly are resisting. It is important for women to use sexuality as a power, and this sexuality may not fit into the neat categories currently available, including domination and submission, and heterosexual-homosexual, or even relational-nonrelational. In terms of gender difference, I repeat, women can be relational and at the same time they are also instrumental, sexual, agentic.
Motherhood and Sexuality
One of the major problems I encounter in emphasizing mothering as important to women is that it is immediately and automatically construed as taking sexuality away from women. To many moderns—feminist and nonfeminist—to speak of mothering conjures up images of the Virgin Mary. But as I tried to make clear in the previous section, sexuality is something both males and females possess and enjoy. To point out that women are maternal does not mean that they are not also sexual. In this society we make a split between the sexual and the maternal; I would argue, however, that this split has more to do with male thinking (by which we are all influenced) than with female thinking.
The Greeks, too, had a penchant for segregating the maternal from the erotic as can be seen in Greek myths. Paul Friedrich points out that Aphrodite, whom he sees as uniquely synthesizing the maternal and the erotic, has been relatively obscure in the pantheon of goddesses for this very reason. Only Sappho, the female poet who lived on the isle of Lesbos and from whom the term lesbian derives, celebrated Aphrodite and emphasized the close harmony between maternal and erotic love. Thus it took a lesbian sensibility to appreciate the erotic in the maternal and to connect it with love for women. Generally in Greek myths, erotic, sensuous female figures tend to be somewhat immature and are segregated from the "mature" and asexual motherly ones. Both in this society and in Greece, childlike women are eroticized; this could well be ex-
plained as a defense against and way of coping with the psychological threat to male dominance posed by strong maternal women. Deeroticizing women's mothering is a way of disempowering women's mothering.
As Jessica Benjamin points out, under current conditions the father is the symbol of desire for both females and males. Benjamin worries that we seem unable to produce a female image or symbol that could counterbalance the phallus and the father as a symbol of desire. I agree that in this culture the mother image cannot function as a symbol of desire, not because it is a passive image but because it is clearly not syntonic with Western culture to imagine mothers qua mothers as lustful or sexually desiring creatures, certainly not toward their children. But it hardly works for fathers to serve as a symbol of erotic desire either! The father's turning the daughter into an object of desire has been a problem symbolically and in reality. My argument is again that women and men are sexual, have desire, are lustful, are erotic. Sexuality is not a point of gender differentiation, although gender and a maternal identification may affect the meaning of desire and how it is expressed by women.
Benjamin makes a good effort to define this gender-influenced desire and suggests that it can come from the mother. She notes that the girl must identify with the mother not only in her maternal aspects but as a sexual subject, not as a sexual object. I agree. The problem then becomes one of finding not just a symbol of desire to replace the phallus but another "psychic mode"—beyond the father. Benjamin suggests an intersubjective mode that does not distinguish between subject and object. This mode "where two subjects meet, where both woman and man can be subject, may point to a locus for woman's independent desire, a relationship to desire that is not represented by the phallus" (pp. 92–93). Here Benjamin takes a step forward, I believe, in better defining relationality and interdependence in which the desire to be known for oneself and to know the other coalesce: "The desire for the heightened sense of self, 'really being there,' is the central meaning of getting pleasure with the other" (p. 93). As a clinician, Benjamin finds that women have a hard time finding their own inner desire because of the fear of impingement, intrusion, and violation. Ideally, this "other" is experienced not as an intruder but as a holding other,
making a safe place to experience both self and other and to experience one's own desire freely. "It is not a different desire, but a different relation of self to other that is at stake" (p. 97).
Benjamin concludes that women "are seeking to find a relationship to desire in freedom to: freedom to be both with and distinct from the other. This relationship can be grasped in terms of intersubjective reality, where subject meets subject. . . . The discovery of our own desire will proceed, I believe, through the mode of thought that can suspend and reconcile such opposition, the dimension of recognition between self and other" (p. 98).
It is important for women not to let their fear of dependence create suspicion of interdependence. Perhaps there is a female way of expressing sexuality—one that grants the other their own self-space, leaves integrity intact, does not require domination or submission. It would be good if sex could involve a merging with the other in mutual recognition, letting one be fully oneself while at the same time being totally unself-conscious in the sense of wanting to be the self one thinks the other wants. It would be good for both partners to be "present," neither resenting the "presence" of the other. This stance is akin to what Marilyn Frye calls "the loving eye" as opposed to "the arrogant eye." The "loving eye" (in or out of erotic contexts) grants space to others and simultaneously preserves one's own space—appreciating and loving but not feeling dominated or invaded, feeling one's own power but not denying the power or "presence" of the other.
Benjamin is assuming heterosexual "sex," Frye is assuming lesbian "sex," but the two views seem similar and both in a way transcend narrow "sex" in that they are talking about a far more generalized stance. It is just possible that both men and women could see advantages to this stance—in bed and out. The erotic, however, precisely because it involves both body and mind, is an especially important sphere for really "feeling" how mutual empowerment could be.
I have argued in this chapter that the psychoanalytic account of gender development has contributed to the general societal tendency to conflate masculinity and femininity with dominance and
submission. It cannot be easily rectified, because it is built into the most basic assumptions of the scheme. The confusion is not done away with by those theorists who oppose Freud's phallocentrism, either. Gynecentric theorists carry over the assumption that masculinity is active and heterosexual and that femininity is passive and heterosexual. The task of undoing this conflation, then, involves separating both gender from sexuality and sexuality from its male-biased definition.
Using the word sex to describe sexual activity and the difference between males and females attests to the degree to which gender has been conflated with sex. In truth both men and women are sexual and their sexuality is not what distinguishes them from each other. Gender difference is not primarily one of sexual difference but rather a difference that from both biological and developmental standpoints may have more to do with females' capacity to bear children and women's greater relationality. Whereas developmental psychology has taken for granted the primacy of mothers in the lives of children, psychoanalysis constructs a theory that gives primacy to fathers and construes gender difference as one of active subject versus passive object in sexual intercourse. Separating gender from sex linguistically helps break up this assumption. To some extent male and female sexuality does differ, but the difference reflects gender difference in the sense of women's more relational stance and men's greater aggression and impersonality. It is not a difference between submission and dominance, lesser and greater, object and subject. These differences have tended to be part of a definition of sexual difference in a male paradigm.
The so-called sexual revolution in the last analysis must be considered all to the good, because allowing women to be actively sexual makes it possible for sexuality to be redefined on female, human terms rather than male terms. There is no inherent reason why sexuality could not be a meeting ground for males and females on terms of equality even in the presence of difference. The sexual revolution clearly did not liberate women in any ultimate sense, but perhaps sexual expression can be empowering for women if it ceases to be male-defined and -controlled.